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Educated Voters Burst Neocon Bubble

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By Sherwood Ross

The Democrats got their 7-million vote victory majority November 7th and regained control of Congress in good part from educated voters who think for themselves.

Those with post-graduate degrees, people schooled to analyze issues and make critical judgments, were among the first to see through the web of lies spun by the White House.

Eventually, even those who initially believed the lie Iraq had WMD learned over time when none were found they had been lied to and got angry and got active.

By contrast, despite significant defections, Bush kept the majority of his evangelical Christian following. Perhaps people whose belief requires them to accept Biblical miracles "on faith" have a mindset to believe whatever the White House tells them.

It's not that college-educated voters are unswerving Democratic loyalists. If the Republicans put up another Abraham Lincoln, they'd get my vote, too. But Americans will not tolerate blatant liars forever. And after six years of his lies, more and more voters, starting with best educated, have come to regard Mr. Bush as a pariah.

Bush is now so unpopular his congressional backers were scuttled by mere association with the word "Republican." As columnist Robert Novak wrote November 9th in the Washington Post, "Republicans lost almost everywhere the president campaigned during the past week." Added the Post's David Broder, the only New Hampshire Republicans to survive were those not on the ballot.

President Bush's support is found in the states with the lowest education levels. In the 2000 national election, states with lower college graduate populations such as West Virginia (15.1%), Kentucky (18.9%), and Louisiana (19.6%) all voted Republican.

States with highest percentages of college graduates--- Connecticut, (36.8%), Massachusetts, (36.6%); and California, (30.6%) voted Democratic.

There were exceptions to this but they were few: Colorado, with a population of 35.5% college graduates went for Bush. Wisconsin, where just 25% of residents holds a college degree, went for Gore.

But if you added up all the "Red" states in 2000, you'd find, on average, only 24.7% of their populations hold a college degree. And if you averaged the percentage of "Blue" State college-educated, the figure is 31.2%. That's a significant difference.

Massachusetts, which may have the most universities per acre, voted strongly Democratic that year. South Dakota, with many fewer colleges, was Bush Country.
According to ABC News of Nov. 14, "College graduates voted 53-45 percent for Democrats---the Democrats' best margin in this group in exit polls since 1982." ABC added, "voters by a 14-point margin were more apt to say they were voting to show opposition to Bush(36%) than to show him support(22%)...the anti-Bush voters were great enough in number to make the difference for the Democrats."

There are political scientists who believe voters' college education plays little, if any, role in how they mark their ballots. Professor Thomas Holbrook of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee says there is "some correlation" between voting and education but "level of education is not among the important factors."

Holbook thinks "party identification" and whether people consider themselves liberal or conservative, is far more important than education. But might it be possible, though, the more college-educated voters in a state, the more likely it is to vote Blue?

One group that does correlate closely with Blue voting are holders of post-graduate degrees. In the 2004 election, Kerry got 55% of those who had done postgraduate study compared to 44% for Bush, although Bush that year won among college graduates, 52% to 46%. Now, college voters favor Democrats by eight percent.

It's also been noted more women than men are voting Democratic and columnist Ellen Goodman writes "Women voters swung election." (November 28th) But the reason may not have to do with their gender. As political scientist Thomas Schaller of the University of Maryland has written, "Women, who are already a majority of college graduates and law school students, continue to further feminize the American electorate with each passing election cycle." Might the reason be women today are better educated?

As for religion, evangelical votes might have to do with whether the believer accepts the miracles of the Bible on faith. There are millions of church-goers who take the Gospel literally. If they believe a miracle because the Bible says so, might they not also believe the political gospel preached by the White House?

Fundamentalists, said to form the backbone of the religious right, predominate in the Red state strongholds stretching across the mid-South from Virginia through Texas.

My evidence is anecdotal, but my travels suggest patriotism is defined by many in this region as whatever the president says it is. They are "God and country" folk, even when the country is off-track and it's getting harder each day to believe God is Bush's advisor.

Dr. Thomas Schaller, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, has written "poorer whites vote more Republican" and "the South remains, as ever, the most religious region of America." He describes it as a region of "NASCAR men" who are "white, non-college educated, rural, married Christian men."

In the 2004 election, President Bush got 78% of the white evangelical/born-again vote compared to 21% for Kerry.

My belief is anger over a president's lies begins with those individuals best able to see through a web of political deceit. It only makes sense those holding post-graduate degrees, particularly Ph.D.'s, who have written dissertations requiring considerable analysis, are likeliest to oppose Bush. And as they tend also to be "opinion molders" who are more politically active and more likely to vote, they are able to sway others.

Red states and Blue states that have traditionally gone for one political party may not remain that way. Just as Americans suffering from the Depression swept the Republicans from office virtually everywhere in 1932, so every state could go to the Democrats if anger at Bush rises.

I could be wrong. Voting patterns may correlate with skim milk consumption or the purchase of economy cars. My hunch, though, is it is education that inspires inquiring minds and evangelism that influences people to accept authority without question. In sum, rather than gender, party affiliation, income, or any particular religious denomination, the key to how people vote turns on their ability to think for themselves. It's critical thinking on the part of educated voters that burst the neoconservative bubble in 2006.
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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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